Wednesday, March 11, 2015

11/03/2015: A diet rich in veg and fish may reduce bowel cancer risk

"Becoming a pescetarian can protect against bowel cancer, new research suggests," the Mail Online reports, according to NHS Choices. The US study found people who mainly eat fish and vegetables, and small quantities of meat, had a significantly reduced risk of bowel cancer.

This study followed more than 70,000 North American Seventh Day Adventists (a branch of Christianity mainly based in the US) for a seven-year period. It looked at whether vegetarian dietary patterns were associated with the risk of developing of bowel cancer.

The study looked at four types of vegetarian dietary patterns:

  • vegan – defined as eating eggs, dairy, fish and meat less than once a month (not strictly vegan)
  • lacto-ovo vegetarian – more frequent eggs and dairy than above, but still meat less than once a month
  • pescovegetarian – eating fish one or more times a month, but all other meats less than once a month
  • semi-vegetarian – eating fish and meat one or more times a month, but less than once a week
These definitions are not what most vegetarians and vegans would consider to be truly vegetarian.

Overall, the researchers found people in these vegetarian dietary groups had a combined reduced risk of bowel cancer compared with non-vegetarians (people who eat meat or fish more than once a week).

However, when split into specific vegetarian diet categories, a statistically significant risk reduction for bowel cancer was only found for the pescovegetarian pattern.

Identifying links between specific foods or dietary patterns and consequent outcomes is challenging, as it is difficult to remove the impact of all other health and lifestyle factors. This means that, taken on its own, this study does not prove that fish consumption definitely decreases the risk of bowel cancer.

Still, the results chime with previous studies – there is a broad body of evidence that a diet high in red and processed meat can increase the risk of bowel cancer.
Seventh Day Adventists and medical research

Seventh Day Adventists are often the subject of medical research into diet and lifespan. This is because their church encourages its followers to eat a vegetarian diet and to avoid tobacco, caffeine, alcohol and drugs.

This means there is a study population who have a similar diet and lifestyle, which helps narrow down potential factors (confounders) that can otherwise muddy the waters of cohort and observational studies.

Read more HERE.

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